A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As the child of brainy people, Myrtle is fluent in Latin and Greek, and up to speed on a lot of science, all of which comes through in a lot of explanatory footnotes. She also speaks in bossy Victorian English, which involves a lot of vocabulary words like "reticule." And her dad's a prosecutor, so there's plenty of legal terminology like "affidavit" and "jurisprudence."
Lots of girl-power messages as Myrtle remains unconvinced about the restrictions besetting Young Ladies of Quality in the Victorian era, and her intrepid governess offers strategic guidance. Also lots of cheerleading for learning about science, criminology, and history as part of that girl power. Learning from your mistakes is good, and quite a lot of that goes on here. Villains get their comeuppance, eventually, and it's worth making the effort to help that happen and protect the innocent.
Positive Role Models
Bright and determined, Myrtle relentlessly investigates and doesn't lack the courage to speak up, which sometimes works out well and sometimes leads to trouble for innocent people. Her governess, Ms. Judson, is a biracial woman (White British and Black French Guianese) who is a clever teacher and protects her loved ones. Myrtle's widowed father, aside from being something of a magnet for scheming women, is intelligent, learned, and supportive (he lets Myrtle come to court where he's the prosecutor). Other adult characters aren't necessarily what they first seem -- for good and ill, as seemingly good characters aren't, and questionable ones prove to have unexpected fine qualities. A a mean girl changes her ways and becomes friends with Myrtle.
Violence & Scariness
An old lady is killed; an elderly man who did not do the deed confesses anyway. Guns are brandished, gardens destroyed, detectives threatened, fathers kidnapped, and there's a spectacular explosion at just the right moment. Mean girls lock Myrtle in a morgue -- which she finds more intriguing than scary.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Myrtle's beloved governess is in love with her father, but the blond woman next door also seems to have designs on him.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters smoke cigars and cigarillos.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Premeditated Myrtle is the first book in a new series by Elizabeth C. Bunce, featuring 12-year-old Victorian detective Myrtle Hardcastle, her beloved widowed dad (a prosecutor), and her also-beloved governess, Ada Judson, the biracial child of White British and Black French Guianese parents who sent her to England for her education and health. Myrtle is quite the know-it-all, but often she's right, so when she (correctly) discovers that her neighbor's been murdered and suspicion falls on her innocent friend, she has to learn some prudence and strategy from Miss Judson. Guns, explosives, and poisons play a part in the story, as do a lot of people who aren't what they first appear to be. Along the way, there's lots of arcane but intriguing knowledge, like how to use quicklime as an explosive, and the fact that lilies are poisonous to cats. Myrtle falls victim to mean girls who lock her up in a morgue -- which she finds more intriguing than scary.
Is It Any Good?
This is a lively romp with appealing characters, melodramatic situations, and many perils. A Victorian 12-year-old's fascination with Sherlock Holmes and "penny dreadfuls" (sensational stories sold for a penny) serves her well in as she discovers a murder right next door. Myrtle is quick to jump to conclusions, but her wise and beloved governess, Miss Judson, is there to keep her on the right path, and more than once she discovers that things, and people, are not at all what they she first thought. It's especially fun having the young detective herself narrate Premeditated Myrtle and address the reader directly:
"Dear Reader, surely I need not enumerate the dangers posed by my present course of action; they are drilled into every girl from the cradle, by every possible means. I knew all about Spring-Heel'd Jack, the fied who stalked the pages of the penny dreadfuls. Not to mention Jack the Ripper, the fiend who'd stalked the real-life streets of London only a few years ago. There were body snatchers and burkers, press gangs waiting to drug the unsuspecting and ship them off to sea, and all manner of Deviants,ready to Defile the Innocent.I was not certain what that last meant, precisely, except that it was practically guaranteed to occur the instant the Young Lady of Quality touched her bootheel to the moonlit earth."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.